NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dark Side of Federal Adoption Law

February 13, 2003

An analysis of the practical effects of the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 by the Des Moines Register has revealed some negative and unintended consequences of the law.

Because of the law's strict deadlines to sever parents' rights, the number of legal orphans -- whose parents are alive but legally cut off from them -- is climbing and the nation might have more such orphans than at any time in its history.

  • Nationally, terminations of parental rights -- due to their inability to safely care for their children -- doubled from 37,000 to 75,000 in the two years after the law was changed.
  • Moreover, the time it takes to adopt a legal orphan is increasing and the cost to taxpayers has risen dramatically every year.
  • The law has done little to reduce the need for costly foster care -- and more than a half million children remain in such arrangements.

In spite of unprecedented spending on adoption subsidies and recruitment, many states struggle to find enough families willing to take in the growing numbers of older, troubled youths in foster care.

Source: Lee Rood, "Some Find Flaws in Adoption Law," Des Moines Register, February 9, 2003.


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